Today you have received Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca).
This vaccine can prevent people from becoming ill from COVID-19. The AstraZeneca COVID 19 vaccine does not contain any live SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID 19), and it cannot give you COVID-19. It contains the genetic code for an important part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus called the spike protein that is carried into your cells by a harmless common cold ‘carrier’ virus (an adenovirus). Your body then makes the spike protein and uses it to learn to recognise and fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The adenovirus has been modified so that it cannot replicate once it is inside cells. This means it cannot spread to other cells and cause infection.
As with any vaccine, you may have some side effects after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Common side effects after AstraZeneca include:
- pain, swelling, tenderness, redness or itching at the injection site
- muscle pain
- fever and chills
- feeling unwell
- joint pain.
Less common side effects after COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca include:
- enlarged lymph nodes
- pain in limb
- decreased appetite
- stomach pain.
These side effects are usually mild. They occur in around two-thirds of people who are vaccinated, start within a day after the vaccination and typically go away within one or two days.
Some people will have more significant flu-like symptoms from this vaccination compared to other vaccines and may require time away from normal activities. These symptoms are more common after the first dose compared with the second dose.
If you have pain at the injection site, fever, headaches or body aches after vaccination, you can take paracetamol or ibuprofen (note, ibuprofen is not recommended during pregnancy). This helps to reduce some of the above symptoms. You do not need to take paracetamol or ibuprofen before vaccination. If there is swelling at the injection site, you can use a cold compress.
Rare side effects that have been reported after AstraZeneca are:
- Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
- Anaphylaxis after AstraZeneca is very rare. The rate in Australia appears similar to any other vaccine.
- A condition called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), which involves blood clotting (thrombosis) and low platelet levels (thrombocytopenia).
- Information from Australia and overseas shows that TTS is a rare condition.
- The blood clots can occur at different parts of the body, including the brain (this is called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis) and the abdomen (this is called idiopathic splanchnic vein thrombosis). The low level of blood platelets can cause bleeding.
- The symptoms of this condition occur around 4 to 42 days after vaccination.
- People with this condition are very unwell and need to go to hospital. This condition can lead to long-term disability, and even death.
More information on TTS is available here: https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/advice-for-providers/clinical-guidance/tts
You should seek medical attention after vaccination if you:
- think you are having an allergic reaction. Call 000 if you experience severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, a fast heartbeat or collapsing
- have an expected side effect of the vaccine that has not gone away after a few days
- have any of the following symptoms, particularly around 4 to 42 days after vaccination:
- headache that persists beyond 48 hours after vaccination or appears later than 48 hours after vaccination. Simple painkillers may alleviate headache initially, but it persists
- blurred vision
- weakness of face or limbs
- confusion or seizure.
- shortness of breath,
- chest pain
- persistent abdominal pain
- leg swelling,
- pin-prick rash or bruising not at the injection site that cannot be explained.
Be sure to tell your doctor that you have recently received the vaccine. For symptoms which are not urgent, you can see your regular healthcare provider (usually your GP).
You can report suspected side effects to your vaccination provider or other healthcare professional. They will then make a formal report on your behalf to your state or territory health department or directly to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
If you would prefer to report yourself, please visit http://www.tga.gov.au/reporting-suspected-side-effects-associated-covid-19-vaccine and follow the directions on the page.
Some side effects from COVID-19 vaccination might be similar to symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever). However, AstraZeneca does not contain any live SARS-CoV-2 virus and cannot cause COVID-19. You may not need to get a COVID-19 test or isolate if you:
- develop general symptoms like fever, headache or tiredness in the first two days after vaccination, and
- are sure that you don’t have any respiratory symptoms (e.g. runny nose, cough, sore throat, loss of smell or loss of taste).
However, you should check the current guidelines in your state/territory for the most up-to-date information. This advice may change in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in your local area. You may still need to get a COVID-19 test if you meet other criteria, for example if you are a close contact of a known COVID-19 case. If in doubt, seek medical assessment.
It is important that you receive two doses of AstraZeneca for your primary course. These doses are generally given about 12 weeks apart. Shortening the interval from 12 weeks to no less than 4 weeks between doses may be appropriate in certain circumstances. The second dose will provide you with better protection against COVID-19.
Some people who are severely immunocompromised should have a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to achieve the same level of immunity as the general population. An mRNA vaccine (Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna)) is preferred to AstraZeneca. Novavax can also be used for this third dose. More information is available at: www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/atagi-recommendations-on-the-use-of-a-third-primary-dose-of-covid-19-vaccine-inindividuals-who-are-severely-immunocompromised.
Booster doses are available to everyone aged 16 years and older. ATAGI recommends a booster dose if it has been 3 months or more since your primary course. Boosters are not recommended for younger people at this stage.
People aged 16 and over can have a booster dose of Pfizer.
For people aged 18 years and over, Pfizer or Moderna are preferred for the booster dose, including for those who had two doses of AstraZeneca for the primary course.
Immunocompromised people who have received 3 primary doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are also recommended to have a booster dose in line with the timing for the general population.
For more information on boosters, see: http://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/atagi-recommendations-on-the-use-of-a-booster-dose-of-covid-19-vaccine.
To be considered up to date with COVID-19 vaccination, you must have completed all the doses recommended for your age and health status.
Find out about how to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines at: https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines/getting-your-vaccination/stay-up-to-date
For information on how your personal details are collected, stored and used visit: www.health.gov.au/using-our-websites/privacy/privacy-notice-for-covid-19-vaccinations
For more information visit http://www.health.gov.au/covid19-vaccines-languages or call 1800 020 080.
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